A Colorado man, who lost both of his arms in an industrial accident more than 40 years ago has become the first shoulder level double amputee to simultaneously control two prosthetic limbs.
Thanks to a groundbreaking medical experiment, Les Baugh, was able to operate a pair of prosthetic arms by simply thinking about moving his limb.
The experiment took place at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and was carried out in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
After training his muscles to use the prosthetic limbs, Mr Baugh was able to perform a wide range of movements with the arms, including picking up a ball and clenching his fist.
Experts are saying that this medical breakthrough will revolutionise the way prosthetics are used on amputees.
Medical experts at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory have been developing the Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPL’s) for more than a decade.
Prior to wearing the prosthetic limbs, Baugh had to undergo a series of surgical procedures known as muscle reinnervation, which helped to reassign the nerves that once controlled his arms and hands.
Once the muscle reinnervation was complete, the project team recorded the patterns his brain made for controlling each muscle as it moved. They then had Baugh control a pair of virtual arms before giving him a pair of prosthetic limbs to try for real.
Because Baugh’s arms had been cut off at the shoulder, he also needed to have a custom socket designed so the limbs could be attached to his torso.
After just ten days of training, Baugh was able to pick up numerous objects from one shelf before placing them on another by just thinking about it.
At the moment, Baugh can only use the arms in a supervised lab environment but the team involved in the project believe they are close to developing some prosthetic limbs which he will be able to use all the time.
Speaking in a video about this remarkable breakthrough, Baugh said that he was most looking forward to doing “simple things like that that most people never think of,” such as being able to “put change in a pop machine and get the pop out of it”.
Michael McLoughlin, the principal investigator in the project said ‘I think we are just getting started. It’s like the early days of the Internet. There is just a tremendous amount of potential ahead of us, and we’ve just started down this road. And I think the next five to 10 years are going to bring phenomenal advancement.’
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